4 Co-op MDF Strategies for Achieving Partner Engagement and Developing an Ongoing Relationships.
There are plenty of reasons why billions of market development dollars go unused each year. From cumbersome reimbursement processes to more attractive incentives offered by other vendors, from inexperience in market development funds (MDF) activities to vague proof-of-performance requirements—channel partners have become accustomed to opting out of marketing program opportunities. Even the faintest of inconvenience can cause partners to reject your “lucrative” opportunity. Therefore, without developing comprehensive Co-op MDF strategies, implementing a successful Co-op MDF is close to impossible.
Co-op MDF Strategies for Developing a Solid Relationship with your Channel Partners
The more often you communicate around your program, the more successful it will be.
Good communication mandates Co-op MDF strategies that focus on, how channel partners will engage with your opportunity.
This starts with onboarding.
If for example, you leverage kick-off events to get partners engaged with your product and program, it should not be your only means of communication.
Partners are likely overwhelmed with information and incentive opportunities as is. They are dealing with several different partner portals and reimbursement opportunities with other vendors, so don’t expect exclusive attention.
Within a few days, partners will likely forget everything you mentioned at the event; it’s nothing personal, just human nature.Partner onboarding should not be a one-time occasion, but instead, a continual process that builds synergy over time.
Attrition is going to Happen with Partners
People leave, markets change, as do value propositions and business philosophies.
So, how do you make sure your channel network are educated and understand your product/program?
Here are various ideas on how to onboard partners on an ongoing basis:
- Monthly “how to participate” program webinars
- Email blasts
- Message board function on your site or partner portal
- Create reference videos/guides for program process
- Utilize your help desk/customer support
- (Semi) annual conference
How will you facilitate the process (e.g., target audience, timeline and task, key messages you want to deliver, and the right time to deliver those messages)?
Here is an example of what an effective communicative strategy looks like:
- Implement a series of automated emails
- Announcing the opportunity to channel
- Detail specific steps in order to avail to the opportunity (e.g., approvals, reviews)
- Alert emails (regarding particular actions partner must take)
- Reminder emails (regarding particular time frame)
Ultimately, when implementing your communicative strategy, it is essential your messaging is consistent and utilizes a variety of channels.
Think about what is going to work best for your network (e.g., email, website information, social media, information on the dashboard of partner portal, etc.).
Emphasis Opportunity as Essential to Partners’ Success
In order for your program to be successful, partners must be able to embrace and recognize why your Co-op MDF strategies are a strategic part of achieving their goal.
The first step in harnessing this concept is to get partners to believe in your company.
How do you achieve this?
The more you attempt to understand partners’ objectives, and solicit their opinion, the more they will view your company as a strategic asset.
Get their feedback on the program process, and use it to your advantage when refining your opportunity.
Realize what worked and what didn’t.
Understand that arbitration and escalation are a part of improving channel relationships and program implementation.
As cliché as it sounds, find the silver lining in negative outcomes.
But always remember to recognize program success.
Leverage early adopters; nurture them to be successful and use them to validate your opportunity’s potential.
- Spread the word and celebrate success stories
- Share what works well and where obstacles were overcome
- Spotlight a great event that took place
This can be featured in monthly newsletters, partner conferences, or in ongoing communications.
Ultimately, partners are humans, and humans like to feel valued.
If you are going to get partners excited about your program, you need to recognize successful partnerships go beyond money.
Be flexible with partners that may make a mistake. A “get out of jail free card” (for not following the program process correctly) demonstrates your empathy and dedication to partners’ success. After all, if you want partners to buy into what you are doing, they are going to have to participate first.
Leverage your Field Brand Ambassadors
It is essential for “ground troops” to play a pivotal role in your Co-op MDF strategies and program process.
Brand ambassadors have a different viewpoint than you, as they deal directly with the partners. They act as the “middleman of collaboration,” acting on your behalf and echoing your message.
If you are not utilizing brand ambassadors to cultivate partners on how to use the programs, your network will likely feel disconnected.
When changes occur in the program process, brand ambassadors become imperative in communicating those modifications so that it feels seamless and non-obstructive.
Brand ambassadors should also be coaching channel partners.
However, in order for their advice to serve partners’ best interests, they need support from you. It’s important that you continually engage with your field. Treat brand ambassadors as you would partners; because by doing so, you there won’t be any gaps in communication and the overall program process.
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